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J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2008 Mar;23(1):1-15. Epub 2007 Oct 24.

Older adults and political participation on the Internet: a cross-cultural comparison of the USA and China.

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  • 1College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, 4105 Hornbake Building, College Park, MD 20742-4345, USA. boxie@umd.edu


Older adults are not only lagging behind in terms of physical access to the Internet but also in engaging in political activities in the online environment. The findings from two independent studies bridging the USA and China suggest that older adults, even when they have access to the Internet, have ambivalent or negative attitudes toward political activities online. As political participation is seen as one of the key social benefits of the Internet and many governments are moving interactions with citizens into the online environment through e-government, the hesitance of older adults to engage in political participation via the Internet is a significant social and political issue that deserves further study and discussion internationally. This paper reviews the social impact of the Internet on political participation and the possible forms of political participation among older Internet users, examining the data from the two studies in terms of the parallel issues of older adults' attitudes toward political participation online and different cultural understandings of political participation. The findings from the comparison of the data are examined and the growing importance of this area of study is detailed. Ultimately, this paper offers suggestions for future research in the area of older adults, political participation, and the Internet.

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